No question, the opening day 2021 was strange. In addition to the sub-par temperatures, there were also sub-par crowds due to COVID-19 capacity limits. The Findlay Market opening day parade was canceled for the second year in a row, but the crowd was still large.
In front of the first parking space at 4:10 p.m., people gathered at The Banks, which had recently been granted DORA status (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area), so that people would get open containers of drinks, including alcohol, outside the premises of restaurants and bars could transport. Though city guides urged fans to socially distance themselves and even take some action to encourage it, people for the most part stood strapless and maskless before the Great American Ball Park opened its gates.
Two days before the opening day, on March 30th, City Councilor David Mann shared its concern about the DORA district and reported large crowds on his first weekend.
“I am requesting a report from the city administration assessing compliance with basic COVID precautionary measures by DORA participants over the past weekend and what additional enforcement or training measures may be appropriate to minimize the risk of DORA becoming a major source for new COVID will cases, “he wrote in a motion.
“We’re all looking forward to the day when we can move around without a mask without social distance,” he said. “That moment is approaching, but we cannot risk causing a setback with a flurry of new cases.”
On what Hamilton County officials referred to as “opening day,” Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman urged visitors to the Great American Ball Park on Thursday to do so responsibly and to keep their distance from the DORA district.
“And I know the more we get together and let go of our guard, the greater the chance for us to increase COVID activity in our community,” he said on Wednesday. “My plea for everyone is that it is wonderful to be outside while it is wonderful to bring activities back together. We all have a role to play in making sure that Hamilton County can get things back to normal.”
That opening day for the Reds was historic in other ways too: Hall of Fame Reds shortstop Barry Larkin made his debut as an analyst on the Reds TV team with new play-by-play announcer John Sadak, making it the first time Brennaman hasn’t been in the Red Booth for five decades. (Marty Brennaman retired in 2019 after 46 seasons. His son Thom resigned after 13 seasons on September 25, 2020 after doing a homophobic arc in front of the camera.)
– Cory Sharber and John Kiesewetter contributed to this report.